Ranking the Films of Quentin Tarantino


A weird thing happened this past December. As the clock ticked toward Christmas, I found myself terribly excited about a number of late-year releases—The Hobbit, Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty. Oddly enough, Django Unchained wasn’t a film I’d been thinking much about, which was strange because Quentin Tarantino is a guy I get. To date, he hasn’t made a film that I found worse than great.

After seeing Django (which is better than great), I think I figured out why I wasn’t so jazzed about it going in. Tarantino has become such a reliable and comforting filmmaker for me that there isn’t much of a reason for me to feel that sort of jittery excitement one feels right before an anticipated film begins. I know he’s going to deliver, and I’m not sure I can say that about any other filmmaker working today.

With Django out on Blu-Ray and DVD, the time feels right to present my ranked list of Tarantino’s eight feature films. It certainly wasn’t an easy list to put together as each of these films holds a special place in my heart, but here goes nothing…

8.) Death Proof

This one, of course, was a part of Grindhouse, Tarantino’s 2007 collaboration with Robert Rodriguez—a project that was meant to pay homage to corny, awfully constructed, and cheap 1970s exploitation flicks. While Death Proof is Tarantino’s weakest film (it simply feels inconsequential compared to everything below it on this list), it’s the best part of Grindhouse and much better than it gets credit for. I’m on record for preferring the film’s first half, which takes us to the diviest of dive bars in Austin, Texas. It’s certainly slower than what comes later, but it lures us in brilliantly only to smack us across the face with a single burst of sickeningly bloody mayhem.

7.) Kill Bill, Vol. 2

The conclusion of Beatrix Kiddo’s revenge epic is ultimately quite satisyfing, but it probably suffers because it doesn’t exactly build much on the story’s incredible first half. Kill Bill, Vol. 2 moves a lot more slowly than its predecessor, and a lot of the bold, exciting stylistic tendencies are left behind in favor of something more straightforward and character-driven.

6.) Reservoir Dogs

I used to hold Tarantino’s debut film in higher regard. That isn’t to say I no longer like Reservoir Dogs; After all, sixth place on this filmography is not sixth place on most filmographies. But when I’m revisiting a Tarantino movie, I almost never reach for Reservoir Dogs. It’s a lot more raw than Pulp Fiction and everything that follows it, and while I love the dialogue and characters, watching this film now makes it clear to me that Tarantino doesn’t really hone his craft until his sophomore feature.

5.) Django Unchained

Tarantino’s latest rates right around the middle of his filmography. It’s a supremely satisfying piece of revisionist history—not unlike Inglourious Basterds. It doesn’t quite hit the same highs as that film, however, because its structure is less interesting, and it ultimately feels a little long in the tooth. But what do you cut? The brilliantly funny “hooded riders” scene? Tarantino’s amazing Australian cameo? I can’t lose any of it. It’s too good a final product.

4.) Pulp Fiction

Arguably Tarantino’s most beloved film (and definitely his most influential), Pulp Fiction‘s true brilliance eluded me for a few viewings. I liked the movie well enough (particularly the dialogue and everything having to do with Samuel L. Jackson), but I struggled with “The Gold Watch” (Bruce Willis and Ving Rhames). It wasn’t until a year or so ago that I totally fell head over heels in love with all of Pulp Fiction—even “The Gold Watch.” It’s an unclassifiable film in every way, and it’s breathtakingly structured.

3.) Kill Bill, Vol. 1

My favorite Tarantino film if we’re judging the craft alone. Editing, cinematography, music, costumes, set design—I love it all. Even better are the ways Tarantino goes out on a limb with stuff like the animated O-Ren Ishii flashback. Some would argue the overload of style isn’t in service of a very hefty story, but for me, Volume 1 of the epic Kill Bill saga carries the weight of the world on its shoulders. It’s nearly a perfect movie.

2.) Inglourious Basterds

Another nearly perfect movie. Its opening might be my favorite Tarantino scene to date. Basterds is also the director’s funniest film, and Christoph Waltz’s performance is the stuff of legend.

1.) Jackie Brown

As good as these other films are, this was a really easy choice. There hasn’t been much doubt in my mind that Jackie Brown is Tarantino’s best film since I first saw it a few years ago. With each revisit, I find something new to admire. It hits every note and features this filmography’s most compelling characters. I called a few other films on this list “nearly perfect.” This one is straight up perfect. One of my favorites of the 1990s. One of my favorites of all time. My favorite Tarantino film.

Share This Post


2 Responses to Ranking the Films of Quentin Tarantino

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *